February 28, 2016

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other


Today in History: February 28, 1704

When you visit the Old Burying Ground in Deerfield, MA, tucked away in the back corner there is a grassy mound with a weathered gravestone atop it. The only inscription it bears is the date “1704.” It is in memory of the 50 inhabitants of the tiny village killed in the overnight hours on February 28/29 by French and Native American raiders.

The rest of the town’s inhabitants – 100 people in all – were forced by their captors to march north in a few feet of snow to Montreal. Some simply fell over and died along the way; others who couldn’t keep up were hacked to pieces. When they arrived in Canada, 88 prisoners had survived the ordeal. Most of the captives were sold to the French, who in turn ransomed them back to the colonists over the course of several years.

If you were from the area, this was the horror story you grew up hearing. Of course, if you were from the area, chances are you were told the story handed down from the English colonists. What happened in Deerfield was revolting, but it was not an isolated incident. …

Two former Mexican presidents compare Donald Trump to Hitler

Felipe Calderon and Vicente Fox said the outspoken presidential candidate was stirring up hate like the Nazi dictator

Two former Mexican presidents have compared Donald Trump’s to Adolf Hitler as the cross-border war of words over the Republican presidential frontrunner’s immigration rhetoric intensified.

Felipe Calderon, a conservative who was president of Mexico from 2006 to 2012, told reporters at an event in Mexico City on Saturday that Trump’s political rhetoric was “racist” and evocative of the Nazi dictator.

“This logic of praising the white supremacy is not just anti-immigration,” Calderon said. “He is acting and speaking out against immigrants that have a different skin color than he does, it is frankly racist and [he is] exploiting feelings like Hitler did in his time,” Calderon said.

Calderon added that Trump’s discourse was “sowing hate” against the United States around the world and that was “not in Washington’s interest”. …

Why this new media narrative could actually, for once, hurt Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s supporters don’t care about his potty mouth, his inconsistent conservative record or his lack of specific policy proposals. Media reports on these apparent shortcomings haven’t hurt him at all.

But we’re about to find out whether one more line of reporting can blow up the Republican presidential front-runner’s main selling point — that he will “make America great again” by returning jobs to U.S. citizens, largely through mass deportation of undocumented immigrants and construction of a “big, beautiful wall” along the southern border. (Also, in a rare wonky moment for Trump, he said he would achieve this through lower taxes that would reduce corporate inversions and discourage outsourcing.)

Why would GOP voters suddenly doubt Trump’s authenticity on this promise? …

10 Scandalous Mysteries Involving Pregnancies

Whenever a woman is murdered or vanishes without a trace, the situation becomes especially tragic when she is pregnant. In those instances, there are technically two victims: the woman and her unborn child.

In many cases, the murder or disappearance is a direct result of the victim’s pregnancy and the potential scandal that it could have caused. As a result, suspicion will fall upon those who have a lot to lose if the child is born.

10. The Kerry Babies Case

One of the strangest mysteries in the history of Ireland is the Kerry babies case. On April 14, 1984, a newborn boy was found stabbed to death on White Strand Beach near Cahersiveen in County Kerry.

When the child could not be identified, he was named “Baby John.” The investigation led to Joanne Hayes, a resident of the village of Abbeydorney. Hayes had recently been seen carrying a child but no longer seemed to be pregnant.

When Hayes and her family were questioned by police, they initially confessed to murdering Baby John. However, the confessions were loaded with inconsistencies, and the family later claimed that they had been coerced. …

Secrets, lies and the iPhone: A CIA whistleblower talks about Obama’s bizarre secrecy obsession — and why Hillary and Bernie won’t talk about it

This isn’t about Apple vs. the FBI — it’s about a “progressive” president with a dismal record on civil liberties

It’s one of the enduring mysteries of Barack Obama’s presidency, as it sinks toward the sunset: How did this suave and intelligent guy, with the cosmopolitan demeanor, the sardonic sense of humor and the instinct for an irresistible photo-op, end up running the most hidden, most clandestine and most secrecy-obsessed administration in American history? And what does the fact that nobody in the 2016 campaign — not Bernie Sanders, not Hillary Clinton, not anybody — ever talks about this mean for the future? The answer to the second question is easy: Nothing good. The answer to the first one might be that those things are unrelated: Personality doesn’t tell us anything about policy, and our superficial judgments about political leaders are often meaningless.

Bill Moyers warned me about this some years ago, when I asked him how he evaluated George W. Bush as a person. He wasn’t much interested in character or personality in politics, he said. Lyndon Johnson had been one of the most difficult people he’d ever known, and Moyers had never liked him, but Johnson was an extraordinarily effective politician. I wasn’t sharp enough to ask the obvious follow-up question, which was whether Johnson’s personal flaws had fed into his disastrous policy errors in Vietnam. …

Most software already has a “golden key” backdoor: the system update

Software updates are just another term for cryptographic single-points-of-failure.

n 2014 when The Washington Post Editorial Board wrote “with all their wizardry, perhaps Apple and Google could invent a kind of secure golden key they would retain and use only when a court has approved a search warrant,” the Internet ridiculed them. Many people painstakingly explained that even if there were somehow wide agreement about who would be the “right” people and governments to hold such an all-powerful capability, it would ultimately be impossible to ensure that such power wouldn’t fall in to the “wrong” hands.

Yet, here is a sad joke that happens to describe the reality we presently live in:

Q: What does almost every piece of software with an update mechanism, including every popular operating system, have in common?

A: Secure golden keys, cryptographic single-points-of-failure which can be used to enable total system compromise via targeted malicious software updates.

I’ll define those terms: By “malicious software update,” I mean that someone tricks your computer into installing an inauthentic version of some software which causes your computer to do things you don’t want it to do. …

10 Key Tech Advances We Need To Colonize Mars

Technology advances by leaps and bounds, and it had better keep doing that if we’re going to send people to live on Mars within the next few decades. In fact, NASA plans to send their first manned mission to Mars as early as the 2030s. But there are a few key pieces of technology humanity will have to improve on before we can hope to reach the red planet safely.

10. Water Extractors

Despite the recent discovery of some liquid water on Mars, future colonizers are going to be dependent on frozen water trapped in the Martian soil. Extracting that water might involve physically digging it up, or it might mean using microwaves to vaporize the water and bring it to the surface as a gas. Unfortunately, while machines to do both have been tested on Earth, no large-scale water extractors have yet been tested on Mars itself.

And it’s definitely important to make sure that machinery works before we consider establishing a permanent base on Mars. That’s not just so that the colonizers don’t die of dehydration. Some experts have suggested using the water to supply oxygen by separating the hydrogen and oxygen atoms that make up water molecules. If that plan is used and the water-gathering machinery breaks down, the colonizers would be in danger of dying from lack of oxygen. But even if an alternate system of supplying oxygen is used (such as breaking down carbon dioxide from the Martian atmosphere) water would be needed for making fuel as well as drinking. Such vital equipment should be tested in the environment of Mars, allowing flaws to be identified before people’s lives rely on it. …

Being overweight linked to poorer memory

Overweight young adults may have poorer episodic memory – the ability to recall past events – than their peers, suggests new research from the University of Cambridge, adding to increasing evidence of a link between memory and overeating.

In a preliminary study published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, researchers from the Department of Psychology at Cambridge found an association between high body mass index (BMI) and poorer performance on a test of episodic memory.

Although only a small study, its results support existing findings that excess bodyweight may be associated with changes to the structure and function of the brain and its ability to perform certain cognitive tasks optimally. In particular, obesity has been linked with dysfunction of the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in memory and learning, and of the frontal lobe, the part of the brain involved in decision making, problem solving and emotions, suggesting that it might also affect memory; however, evidence for memory impairment in obesity is currently limited. …

These 2 Marijuana Studies Raise Potentially Alarming New Findings

New research from Columbia University suggests a link may exist between marijuana and a variety of substance abuse disorders.

At the moment, the expansion of marijuana throughout the United States looks almost unstoppable.

Marijuana’s rapid expansion
Since 1996, 23 states have approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, opening up new pathways of treatment options for patients with chronic illnesses like glaucoma or terminal types of cancers. We’ve also witnessed residents in four states (along with Washington, D.C.) approve the legalization of recreational marijuana, which a decade ago would have seemed unfathomable.

How was this made possible? It’s been a mixture of the will of the people and states’ desire to raise additional revenue.

An October poll conducted by Gallup showed that a whopping 58% of respondents were now in favor of marijuana’s legalization. This tied the highest favorability response rate since Gallup began its survey decades prior, and it demonstrates just how far public opinion has come in such a relatively short time frame. If we solely examine medical marijuana, respondents’ favorability jumps even more. A CBS News poll from last year pegged favorability of medicinal marijuana at 84%.

We’re also seeing a push by legislators in certain states to legalize medical and recreational marijuana. The purpose of legalization is to collect tax revenue from retailers, as well as gather licensing fees associated with selling, growing, and processing the drug. Colorado, which netted almost $1 billion in total sales in 2015, wound up clearing around $135 million in tax and license revenue from cannabis last year. That’s a big deal, and this money can go a long way toward funding schools, drug abuse programs, and law enforcement within the state. …


Today I found out what causes limbs to “fall asleep”.

Technically known as “paresthesia”, this syndrome is caused by the compression of specific nerves. When you sit cross-legged, sleep with your arm above your head, or position any limb in such a way to put excess pressure on a nerve, that nerve will stop sending impulses normally. Should the pressure be great, or the duration be long, the nerve will eventually stop sending impulses altogether. Any area the nerve services will essentially then “fall asleep”. Think of a person standing on a garden hose. It’s hard for the water to get to the nozzle when the person’s feet get in the way. If the person’s heavy enough, or she stands on the hose for too long and the hose fully compresses, water will eventually stop flowing entirely. Once this pressure is relieved, your nerve will start to function normally again (hopefully) and you can now move your hand/legs/arms/feet. Nerves, like a well worn hose, may take some time to work properly (expand) and you may feel some tingling, “pins and needles”, during the process.

Nerve cells, for the most part, have their main bodies located in the spinal cord itself. They have what are known as “axons” that branch out to your limbs (and other parts of the body, but we will focus on the limbs) and carry nerve impulses out from the spinal cord. Together with another cellular protrusion known as a dendrite, these projections allow us to feel the world around us. …

Super Tuesday cheat sheet: everything you need to know

Presidential candidates face their first true test of national electability on March 1. Here, a primer on which states are voting — and what outcomes are likeliest.

On March 1, presidential candidates will be evaluated by voters in 12 states and one territory – that’s the largest number of primary elections to be held on any given day and also the day when the largest number of delegates are chosen. And because those states and territories are so different from one another, it’s also the first time in the electoral calendar that the presidential hopefuls will really have their national electability put to the test. No wonder it’s known as Super Tuesday.

Here, we give you a primer on all 13 locations that will, together, shape the rest of the race. …

What a Donald Trump presidency might actually look like

President Trump.

A lot of people have trouble putting those two words together.

“I don’t even want to get into that. … God,” said John H. Sununu, who was White House chief of staff under President George H.W. Bush. “I don’t even want to be in a story that has that assumption in it.”

The assumption can’t be brushed aside, however. The chance that Donald Trump will win the Republican presidential nomination has grown dramatically with his victories in early-voting states and his leads in polls of the states that vote over the next three weeks. The intense attacks that Trump’s leading rivals, Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, have waged in recent days provide a good measuring stick for their concern that he could soon race beyond their reach.

And although lots of Republican strategists fear — and Democrats hope — that Trump would stand no chance in a general election, many of those same people confidently predicted his demise in the primaries.

So, with an election win no longer a farfetched notion, what might a Trump presidency look like? …

5 Things We’ve Done With Corpses That Make Zombies Seem Okay

There’s something sacred about the remains of a human being, to the point that even Richard Dawkins probably wants a nice casket, just in case. Most of the time, people will be as respectful of others’ remains as they would be to their own — or at the very least, they won’t do anything weird like dress up the recently deceased like Green Lantern.

Most of the time.

#5. Japan Has Corpse Hotels

Like most of the post-WWII world, Japan experienced a population boom that is finally starting to taper off. However, the problem in Japan is that their funeral home industry didn’t grow accordingly. This means that decomposing human bodies could be waiting for up to a couple of weeks for a proper wake.

“Put it over there with the others and take a number.”

Instead of being alarmed at the intimidating rate at which their citizens are croaking, some folks in Japan have seen a business opportunity. Rather than letting loved ones pile up in funeral home inboxes, people can choose to dump their dead loved ones at a local corpse hotel — part of Japan’s burgeoning for-profit short-term morgue industry. …

The Moral Cost of the Kill Box

The repurposed military tactic is both unethical and ineffective in today’s conflicts.

In laymen’s terms, “kill boxes” sound like torture devices. In military jargon, they are almost incomprehensible; as defined in the Department of Defense Dictionary, they are “a three-dimensional area reference that enables timely, effective coordination and control and facilitates rapid attacks.” But despite their ominous name and complicated technical definition, kill boxes are actually relatively simple in concept: They are three-dimensional cubes of space on a battlefield in which members and allies of the United States military are completely free to open fire.

According to the DoD, “there is no formal kill-box doctrine or tactics, techniques or procedures.” They require a sophisticated web of logistical, bureaucratic, and technological expertise to implement. Like most military tactics, kill boxes aren’t new—they’ve been around for nearly 30 years now. But they are constantly being reinvented for new conflicts. In recent years, kill-box strategy has shifted: They are now used in conflicts that are not between two states, but rather within states against terrorists and fighters who aren’t members of any particular country’s military. With this change, two things have started happening. First, kill boxes have materialized in places the local population might not expect. And second, kill boxes have been used in conjunction with disposition matrices, or “kill lists.” The DoD uses these to target people whose “pattern of life” fit the parameters of an algorithm, rather than specific individuals. For example: Say someone who owns a cellphone has been calling numbers that trigger a response from a computer at the Pentagon. Analysts will triangulate the cellphone’s whereabouts, and military leaders might initiate a “kill box” at that location, authorizing soldiers to kill everyone within the “box.” Mission accomplished. …

Life after the Ashley Madison affair

It’s six months since hackers leaked the names of 30 million people who had used the infidelity website Ashley Madison. Resignations, divorces and suicides followed. Tom Lamont sifts through the wreckage

It was 9 o’clock on a Sunday night last July when a journalist called Brian Krebs came upon the scoop of his life. The 42-year-old was at home in Virginia at the time, and wearing pyjamas. For years Krebs had written a popular blog about internet security, analysing thefts of consumer data from big companies around the world, Tesco, Adobe, Domino’s Pizza among them. Now Krebs, as his weekend came to an end, was being tipped off about a more sensational breach. An anonymous informant had emailed him a list of links, directing him to caches of data that had been stolen from servers at a Canadian firm called Avid Life Media (ALM). Krebs vaguely knew of ALM. For years it had run a notorious, widely publicised web service called Ashley Madison, a dating site founded in 2008 with the explicit intention of helping married people have affairs with each other. “Life is short. Have an affair” was the slogan Ashley Madison used.

At the time Krebs received his tip-off, Ashley Madison claimed to have an international membership of 37.6 million, all of them assured that their use of this service would be “anonymous”, “100% discreet”. Only now Krebs was looking at the real names and the real credit-card numbers of Ashley Madison members. He was looking at street addresses and postcodes. Among documents in the leaked cache, Krebs found a list of telephone numbers for senior executives at ALM and Ashley Madison. He even found the personal mobile number of the CEO, a Canadian called Noel Biderman. …

10 Proposed Airliners Of The Future

Air travel is a common occurrence in our modern society. When most people imagine commercial airliners, they imagine the standard tube-and-wing configuration. However, aerospace engineers across the world are developing concepts for future airliners that would revolutionize air travel.

10. Aether Airship

Airships were a big part of commercial aviation before they slowly died off in the mid-20th century. However, some intrepid aerospace designers are now developing designs to bring airships back into use.

One of the more interesting ideas is the Aether airship. Designer Mac Byers realized that his airship needed to look different than old airships so that people did not associate it with disasters like the Hindenburg explosion. Thus, the Aether airship has a long, sharklike appearance that communicates both safety and futurism.

This airship is more like a cruise ship than a normal airliner. Conceptually, the Aether airship would travel to different locations while offering enough amenities so that passengers wouldn’t need to leave the airship if they didn’t want to. …

When People of Color Are Discouraged From Going Into the Arts

The lack of diversity in Hollywood presents an opportunity to reflect on barriers in academia.

When I was 10, my friend’s mother, who was a script supervisor for the sitcom Designing Women, asked me to audition for a part on the show. The role was that of a Vietnamese boat child named Li Sing, who Suzanne Sugarbaker (Delta Burke) agrees to foster for a few weeks. The casting director was having trouble finding enough Asian child actors to audition for the role.

I’d never acted before, and I remember rehearsing the script in the car on the way to the studio. I was supposed to be in Suzanne’s “powder room,” playing with all of her fancy bath products, bantering with her in broken English. Never mind that I was actually Korean American, born in Los Angeles, and spoke like a valley girl—this was the role that was available to me as an Asian.

I didn’t get the part, and that was the beginning and the end of my career in Hollywood. But I often think of it now, especially as the #OscarsSoWhite controversy has revealed the industry’s continued failure to reflect the diversity of the country. Like many people, I agree the Oscars are the symptom, not the cause, of the problem—that there’s a need to create more diverse content by opening up the ranks of writers, producers, casting directors, and other power players to women and people of color. Asian people shouldn’t always be depicted as foreigners and nerds, just as black people shouldn’t always be typecast as thugs or comic sidekicks, or Latino people as maids and gangbangers. …

Remembering Wally Yonamine

The Japanese American athlete, who died five years ago, played a significant role in restoring trust between the two countries after World War II.

In the summer of 2000, at an airport in Honolulu, Kaname “Wally” Yonamine was explaining an exhibit that outlined his legacy of playing baseball in Japan in the 1950s to his granddaughter and a curious bystander. The bystander was fascinated, so much so that he wanted to take a picture of the display. But unaware he was in Mr. Yonamine’s presence, he asked him to step aside so he wouldn’t be in the picture.

Wally Yonamine said nothing.

It’s this humility, along with his extraordinary achievements in baseball and football, that made Yonamine—who died five years ago, on February 28, 2011—one of the most remarkable figures in 20th-century sports. Born in Hawaii to Japanese parents, he was the first Asian player to play professional football in the U.S, spending a season with the 49ers in 1947. He is also considered the first American to play professional baseball in Japan after World War II, making him one of the most significant and underappreciated figures in Japanese American diplomacy. …


Carmen asks: What do the numbers in a blood pressure test mean? Also, what types of things do these numbers tell doctors?

Well Carmen, blood pressure is really just that- the pressure at which blood moves around the body in your arteries. The easiest and least invasive way to test what that pressure is at any given moment is to momentarily stop the flow of blood and then slowly allow it to begin again. The pressure at which it begins to flow is the highest pressure the blood exerts on your artery walls.

Medical professionals do this by using a blood pressure meter known as a Sphygmomanometer (say that three times fast while eating peanut butter!) They encircle a limb, usually an arm, with a balloon-like device known as a blood pressure cuff. While pumping the cuff up, they use a stethoscope to listen for your heart beat past where the cuff is cutting off blood flow. When they no longer hear your heart beating, they slowly release the pressure while watching the pressure gauge. …


Mark asks: What are some good ways to lower my blood pressure without drugs?

Over the past few decades, controlling high blood pressure has been one of the priorities for health care professionals and organizations worldwide. “High blood pressure” is defined as any systolic pressure (the top number) above 140 or diastolic (the bottom number) higher than 90. (See: What do the Numbers on a Blood Pressure Test Mean and What Do They Tell the Doctor)

High blood pressure, while not a disease in and of itself, is a risk factor for several other life threatening conditions like heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure. The most beneficial way to control your blood pressure is via natural means. This is because medications that control blood pressure all come with some serious side effects. These side effects can sometimes be more harmful than the high blood pressure itself. Your doctor will weigh the risks vs. benefits before he or she decides how to best control your high blood pressure. All medical professionals know, if it can be done, the best way is naturally. So let’s look at what we are trying to control and the best natural ways to lower blood pressure. …


Matt asks: Why does salt raise blood pressure?

Well, Matt, it turns out a high sodium diet might not raise blood pressure, nor have any sort of adverse effect on cardiovascular health at all. But I’ll cover the theory on why salt raises blood pressure below- just realize it is just a theory and one not backed up by much of any hard scientific evidence (and there is more evidence that says it doesn’t than does).

The debate over eating too much salt has been around since the 1960s. Almost every major governmental health organization embraces the idea that eating too much salt is damaging to your health. Most major news outlets report on these recommendations and people tend to try and follow them. This is most likely why most of us, especially the elderly with heart problems, know to reduce the amount of salt we eat. Those of us who like the idea that any recommendation be backed up by solid evidence, have to step back on this one. As stated, currently there is no solid evidence that salt will chronically raise your blood pressure. Yes, none. …

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